Black Panther Party (for Self-Defense)
U.S. African American revolutionary party founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (b. 1936) in Oakland, Calif. Its original purpose was to protect African Americans from acts of police brutality. Eventually the Panthers developed into a Marxist revolutionary group that called for the arming of African Americans, their exemption from the draft, the release of all African American prisoners, and payment of compensation to African Americans for centuries of exploitation by white Americans. By the late 1960s it had more than 2,000 members, with chapters in several major cities; an early spokesman was Eldridge Cleaver (1935–98). Conflicts with police in the late 1960s and early '70s led to shoot-outs in California, New York, and Chicago, one of which resulted in Newton's imprisonment for the murder of a police officer. Though some members of the party were guilty of criminal acts, the entire group was subjected to violent attacks by police and harassment by other government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police activities in dealing with the Panthers were later the subject of congressional investigations. By the mid-1970s, having lost many members and having fallen out of favour with African American leaders, the party turned to providing social services in African American neighbourhoods. By the early 1980s it had effectively disbanded.
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